The second day in the case against Hazleton, Pennsylvania's Illegal Immigration Relief Act (IIRA) was combative and hostile. Plaintiff's attorney Tom Wilkinson - one of 25 attorney's representing the plaintiffs consisting of the ACLU, Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund and illegal aliens against 5 attorneys for Hazleton - grilled 68-year-old city Council President Joseph Yannuzzi for 3 hours with a "straw man" argument on why he didn't do a study or hire consultants before voting to approve the ordinance.
[You can see my day 1 coverage here]
Putting The Effectiveness Of The Ordinance On Trial
Here is some of Mr. Wilkinson attacking Mr. Yanuzzi and being argumentative.
Mr. Wilkinson continued to focus on Mr. Yanuzzi’s lack of knowledge and pelted him with questions about the city’s lack of preparation for enforcing the ordinance. Asked if the ordinance justified a study because it could harm residents, Mr. Yanuzzi fired back.
“Every law we make, somebody’s going to be hurt,” he said.
“There is no 100 percent (certainty), and to have studies done ... I pass the pooper- scooper law, what am I going to do — study that? We can’t have consultants come here every two seconds.”
City Council President
Mr. Wilkinson shot back: “So removing these people (illegal immigrants) from town who are working, living, employed is just the same thing as removing something off the sidewalk?”
To which Mr. Yanuzzi replied: “You’re talking about a person that is, first off, illegal.”
U.S. District Judge James M. Munley then interrupted the exchange because it had become argumentative.
This tactic by the plaintiff's attorney really is off base. The complaint is whether the Act is constitutional, not whether it would be a detriment to the city, that is up to the voters to decide. If it harms the city the voters can throw the lawmakers and mayor out of office.
This argument is nothing more than a smear against the city counsel. Though I do admit that they didn't seem to do their homework on portions of the act, but that could be revised at a later date as they are operational issues and not constitutionality ones. Like what the chain of command is and where are arguments filed.
Wilkinson then dug into where the bill originated and why it was revised nine times.
Mr. Wilkinson said Mr. Barletta copied a defeated law in San Bernardino, Calif., and used it as the basis of Hazleton's immigration ordinances. Mr. Yannuzzi said he was uncertain where the law came from, though he had heard it originated in California.
Really who cares where the law came from? It was revised in order to make it constitutional, whether the originating bill was defeated or not. Wilkinson is simply playing games trying to make this act seem illegitimate because possibly a bill it was based off of was ruled out.
As for the nine revisions... well that's an easy one. Once you've got a national behemoth like the ACLU, US Chamber of Commerce and the Catholic church against you, you better make sure all your ducks are in a row. If that takes nine revisions as you discover flaws, then so be it.
Wilkinson was simply being an ass and wasting time with this argument. You can be sure if they had made no revisions he would have been questioning why they hadn't actually looked into questions that were brought up regarding the ordinance.
Latinos Claim "Intimidation"
Jose Molina, regional director of the Pennsylvania Statewide Latino Coalition and Rudy Espinal, president of the Hazleton Hispanic Business Association were called as witnesses. They claimed that Latinos were intimidated by the act and that they were also unnerved by sanitation workers. Yes, sanitation workers.
Carla Maresca, Hazleton
Molina tried to make this out to be like the civil rights movement complaining that police showed up at a 300-person rally against the act in Hazleton. “It reminded me of the civil rights (movement) of the past – the police trying to show some kind of threat – we’re watching you,” Molina said. Hazleton attorney Carla Maresca quickly shot down his jackbooted visions by asking whether he knew Dr. Agapito Lopez, the organizer of the rally, had requested the police presence, to which Molina replied “That might be Dr. Lopez’s truth. When I talk about the officer in my face, that’s my truth too,”.
As for the fear of sanitation workers, Molina stated that a bag of trash was left at one Latino's home. The city attorney once again shot down Molinas racist theories by pointing out that Waste Management, the same company that does sanitation in Hazleton also does trash pickup in Allentown where Molina lives. Molina simply replied, “The effect is the same,”.
Molina also claimed that a Latino business had a brick thrown through its window. Without proof though how could he know whether it was any way related to the ordinance or a vandal or someone who had a personal grudge against the business owner? He can't and it is an irrelevant argument.
Molina sounds pretty weak as both a leader and a witness. He really has no proof of the "intimidation" he claims.
As for Rudy Espinal, president of the Hazleton Hispanic Business Association, he claims that business since talk of the act began has been slow. The Hazleton attorneys pointed out that there could be any other number of reasons for a businesses slowdown and provided some factors.
I could also put forth some factors such as illegal aliens "self deporting" themselves from Hazleton in fear that they would be caught. This is the intent of the act anyway and it is 100% constitutional.
Another business owner also came up with complaints about slowdowns in business, the Hazleton attorneys pointed to financial documents that showed their income was fluctuating up and down erratically for a long period, so how could they point to the act as the cause? A legitimate argument since so many small businesses fail anyway. The complaintant was a "gift shop", not exactly a non-cyclical business that could have any number of reasons for slowdowns such as seasons, people not liking your gifts or pricing things too high.
A landlord also complained that two men who came to look at an apartment left when they found out about the act and never came back, but when questioned he had no proof that they didn't simply find a cheaper apartment or just decide they didn't like the one he was offering. If they were illegal aliens, and left the town, then the act had its intended effect. Illegal aliens aren't supposed to be in Hazleton or America.
All in all day two was pretty much a waste of time focusing on the potential effects of the act - which was not even in effect as it was suspended by Judge Munley soon after passage - and a bunch of complaints of racism that were unsubstantiated. It did not focus on the actual point of the case which is the constitutionality of the Illegal Immigration Relief Act.
This case is supposed to last two weeks. I'm betting it's two weeks of hearing illegal alien sob stories and not anything about the real meat of the matter, whether the act is constitutional.
Be sure to check out the recap of the other days of coverage in my Hazleton Archive
Hazleton needs funding. You can donate to their legal defense fund at Small Town Defenders. Their case could set the stage for reduced illegal immigration throughout this country, so donate today!
Sources: Hazleton Standard Speaker: 1 2; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: 1; Times Tribune: 1